The composer, Jason Robert Brown, published a long exchange he had with a teenager who just couldn’t see what was wrong or illegal with downloading his sheet music and not paying for it. It’s a fascinating exchange, and I recommend reading the whole thing.
You might even enjoy the comments. Brown’s experience began with his attempt to get people at one website to stop offering his sheet music for illegal downloads. Brown’s position is simple: This music is his livelihood, and he expects people to pay for it. I think there’s a lot to say for the argument that an artist can benefit from the free gifting of some of his or her art, and in this matter, I practice what I preach. But the decision to give some art away belongs to its owner, not to anyone who happens to want it.
Brown’s exchange with this teen illustrates what seems to be the status quo: that an awful lot of people feel they are doing the good thing, or the right thing, when they take free copies of someone else’s work. Brown mentions his feeling that the recording industry is dying because of all these free ripoffs. I think it’s probably fairer to say that the record industry is dying because it is trying to resist a tidal wave, instead of trying to make it work for them, or, as Brown is doing, trying to better shape that wave.